Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck resigned on March 27, citing differences with the Bush administration's environmental policies. In a letter to new Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, he urged her to "withstand political pressure" and uphold the roadless initiative (HCN, 1/29/01: Roadless plan slides to safety). He also called for stronger protection of old-growth forests, increased funding for wilderness areas and reform of the 1872 Mining Law.


The Northern Rockies are getting ready for a spring mushroom boom. Last summer's wildfires in central Idaho and western Montana (HCN, 8/28/00: Home is where the heat is) created the perfect conditions for morel mushrooms, also known as "fire mushrooms." The mushrooms can bring in as much as $9 a pound, and professional pickers are already scouting out prime mushroom spots. Forest Service officials are designating extra campsites for the expected crowds.


Yosemite National Park officials hope a public bus system (HCN, 12/4/00: Yosemite shuttles into a new era) will loosen the snarl of cars in the Yosemite Valley. After a one-year experiment, the Park Service says it wants to make the system permanent, but critics say a fleet of diesel buses will only cause more noise and pollution.


A series of lawsuits from environmentalists has established major new protections for California desert lands. On March 21, a federal judge approved a legal settlement between the Bureau of Land Management and three national environmental groups. The agreement, designed to protect 24 endangered species, requires the BLM to restrict grazing in desert tortoise habitat, and protect about half a million acres of desert land from off-road vehicles. In a previous settlement, the BLM closed parts of the vast Algodones Dunes to off-road vehicles (HCN, 12/18/00: Feds fight chaos in a desert playground).


As the wolf population grows in Idaho (HCN, 2/26/01: Return of the natives), Utah is preparing for the predators to move south. Over the next two years, a committee created by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will put together a statewide management policy for gray wolves. There have been several unconfirmed sightings of wolves in northern Utah.